There is no magic wand

There are times like this, in the middle of the night, when I wake up for a pitstop and worry sneaks in before I can get back to sleep. Not helpful. I fruitlessly wish for a magic wand to erase the fearful thoughts from my mind to allow me once again to get the rest every body needs.

I’ve been on my recovery journey for almost ten years now. When I began, I had no idea it was an endless journey. Not that I presumed I’d immediately “get” all the things I needed to “get” to be recovered. It’s more that I had no idea of the many layers of recovery that were both needed – and possible. I am humbled, I am grateful, I am relieved that this is a journey that continues for as long as I am alive and have the capacity to live and grow and understand and change.

The past couple of weeks, my recovery focus has been on Steps 8 and 9: made a list of all persons we had harmed and became ready to make amends to them all; made direct amends wherever possible, except when to do so would injure myself or others. When my sponsor and I met last, I pulled out the amends list I had started…in 2012. It had overwhelmed me then; my body tells me it terrifies me now. And that feels unreasonable to me.

This journey is not simple. It’s not easy. At times, it isn’t even fun. (Imagine that.) Yet it is so very worthwhile! I don’t think it’s worthwhile; I know it’s worthwhile. I have been graced with more blessings than I ever thought possible, in terms of how I think, how I’m experiencing my life. There are times when I look back over the last few months and I am in awe of how much I’ve changed – at how much my Higher Power, whom I call God, has transformed me and my thinking.

That’s why it puzzles me and frustrates me when I get stuck in fear, in feelings of being overwhelmed, in the anger and resentment and general grumpiness that have been accompanying me these past couple of weeks. My sponsor and I laughed when she shared about the “earthquake” in her own thinking with a book we have both been recently reading. Now I’m having my own “earthquake,” as the gnarly, ugly bits of resentment still present in me are getting stirred up.

The crazy part is, I still want to take these Steps toward greater recovery, albeit in that “I don’t wanna! I don’t wanna! I’m freaking scared and already feel terrible enough about myself that I’m not sure I wanna do this at all” kind of way. You know, that digging-my-heels-in way of insisting that I be dragged into this, even as I know I cannot be dragged into this. I can choose to stand still or to walk forward. I suppose walking backward is an option, but that is unthinkable. It already feels like I’m walking backward just to have the negative feelings stirred up and brought to the surface, as if one can ever stay clean and tidy mucking out the stables that have held those hurts and resentments.

A few days ago, I read in The Forgiveness Handbook that “our biggest demons are those we do not have the courage to face” (p 42, Diana L. Guerrero). I think she’s right. And I think I’ve found one of my biggest demons. At least it feels that way in this moment. I’ve also often heard that I need to trust the process – trust that working the Steps, doing the best I can to do my part, and letting go of the results will bring me to the recovery I desire. I know it’s true. Both intellectually and on deep body levels, I know it’s true, because I’ve experienced the truth of it over and over again.

When fear and worry creep back in, I futilely long for that magic wand to make the fear, the pain, the feelings of being overwhelmed vanish, to return me to the serenity that’s hiding in the closet once again, the serenity that was with me so deeply only a few days ago. Yet, ironically, I also know that it is precisely my willingness to walk through the fear and the pain, even kicking and screaming all the way, that enables me to return to that serenity and experience the deep inner healing that comes with it.

Advertisements

60 Days: to 60, to New Beginnings, and to Transformation

At some point within the next 60 days, I will have turned 60. Yep, the big Six-Oh. A year I’ve never been able to envision for myself. Don’t know why. My pastor told me once that everyone has an age in their minds that they think they’re going to die or that they can’t see themselves living beyond. The goofy part is that I’ve also presumed I’ll live well into my 80s or 90s because relatives on both my mother’s and my father’s sides of the family have done so. My dad’s father died at 98, his older brother is still going at 93, and his younger brother is in his late 80s. My mom’s dad made it to 86, her sister made it to 99, and their aunt made it to 93. Longevity is in the genes! So whatever is going on with that notion of not picturing myself post-50, apparently it’s a normal thing. (The pastor who told me that – his ‘age-limit’ was 35. We were both in our late 40s when we had this conversation.)

As to new beginnings, I’ve been wanting to move for quite some time. Tonight I learned that I’m going to have to move. My landlady has found an opening in a retirement home and will be moving there in two months. The deadline is actually the end of March, but I’m hoping to be in a happier new place before then. We’ll see what my Higher Power has in store.

Transformation is the never ending quest and the never ending journey, for transformation happens again and again whenever I create the space and find the willingness for change. During the next 60 days, my student loans will all be out of the deferment they’re in, I’ll have a payment schedule and I’ll either be finding a new rhythm to my life (which is another new beginning, of course) or I will have crashed and burned. Even as I’m quaking in my proverbial boots, I’m determined to find the new rhythm.

I’m so tired of letting fear control my ability to move forward. Just when I think I’m making progress, and indeed I have made progress, I find myself faced with another challenge, another paralyzingly fearful decision to make or action to take. In this case, I have a twofold situation. I have loan paperwork to process (and my loans are about the size of a mortgage…oy…) and I have to find a new place to live. Both of these are major stuff on the stress-factor scales.

My plan is to avail myself of my Al Anon resources – books, meetings, my sponsor, and phone calls (the basic tools of the program), take things one small step at a time, and do my best to recognize and appreciate the progress I’m making along the way.

I’m terrified, and I don’t want to be. I feel backed into a corner, yet I still have choices. I have no idea how things will turn out – but I know that my Higher Power wants to fill my life with blessings if I’m willing to receive.

For the next 60 days I’m going to do my best to move into my 60s with a little more grace and ease than I’ve moved into most of the other decades of my life.

To begin the countdown, I’d like to appreciate some of my recent steps toward this end:

  • The night before last, I sorted three cartons of paper piles into three broad categories that can now be sorted further when I have time (financially related, scrapbook related and everything else).
  • In the past week I made a program call, called and texted friends and even called a family member to seek emotional support through some bumpy moments, including a health crisis with my brother that led to my taking a good, hard look at my own self-care practices.
  • I reached out and asked for help in sorting my scary paper piles.
  • I’ve asked someone who is also looking for a place to live if she’d like to connect to see if we might be compatible and want to find a place together.
  • I’ve come to the startling realization that with my newly begun, virtually full-time employment, I have more choices around renting, including signing a lease. (It’s been a long time since I’ve been in this position.)
  • I’ve found healthy ways to exform the fears that keep trying to rear their gnarly little noggin’s.
  • I’ve written and published this post! 🙂

Continuing the journey (Wed – Dec 12)

I find myself eager to create some kind of trackable framework that will guide my choices and focus in the coming weeks and months of this journey, yet I keep getting stuck. There are so many things I still want to do that require a little bit, if not a lotta bit of courage.

HPIM0979The one year mark was really just another step along the way in a journey that is endless.

I got to thinking about the Serenity Prayer yesterday morning – especially the second request: God grant me…the courage to change the things I can. I’m facing some decisions and some necessary steps around finances that are scary right now. And I’ve been wrestling with some depression. Not the truly overwhelming kind, but the kind that keeps my energy level just low enough that I’ve run out of steam by the end of the work day. Getting any tasks done beyond dinner and planning for the morning feels daunting.

In the morning, when I’m getting ready for work, I’m inspired and eager to write a post. I make a mental or even physical list of some tasks I want to get done. Fill out the student loan repayment paperwork. Order this or that item online. Finish categorizing the expenditures I downloaded from my bank account so I can figure out a budget. Start checking out some of the roommate websites so I can begin looking for a better living situation.

It all sounds really good in the morning and I eagerly await the time when I’ll be able to tackle these projects. Yet by the time I get home, especially from my 3-day-per-week job, my brain is mush and all I want to do is fix dinner and relax in front of a DVD for an hour or so. Then an hour turns into two or even three and it’s time to get ready for bed and the next day.

The idea of giving up watching DVDs in the evenings continues to cross my mind as a worthy goal. After all, I could get a lot done in the two or three hours I have free each evening if I wasn’t distracted by some movie or TV show. I’ve toyed with the idea of tracking my abstinence in this area, but I’m not convinced this is all that different than my original goal of wanting to clear out the clutter. One year sounded like an adequate period of time to make a significant difference in the amount of clutter that surrounds me. Yet I look around my room and the only thing that seems noticeably different from this time last year is me! (Which is a very good thing. :-))

So I’m still thinking about how to shape this new leg of the journey. (Or would it be a “log” of the journey?  ;-))

I brought an old photo of me to work to scan into a jpeg file recently. It was taken when I was around twenty. I’m sitting on my then boyfriend’s bed, holding a beautiful Mexican West Coast rattlesnake. Yes, you read me – a rattlesnake. A “fixed” rattlesnake that is. If she bit me (which she wouldn’t – she was really quite gentle), I would receive no venom.  (Btw, I would be disinclined to perform any venom-ductectomies on vipers anymore, but back then, it seemed okay.)

It's amazing what can become comfortable in the right circumstances

It’s amazing what can become comfortable in the right circumstances

I’m reminded of the fact that when I first met my boyfriend, I was terrified of snakes – ANY kind of snake. When I was over at his place, I would sit on the end of his bed, just inches from the (open!) door, ready to bolt if one of the snakes he took from a cage made a move toward me. Even when I saw the young kids who lived next door to me eagerly and fearlessly stroking the snakes my boyfriend held out for them to see, I was still ready to run shrieking from the room.

Yet, over the course of the first year we dated, I started learning about his snakes. I learned about their habits and their temperaments, and I watched him handling them and staying safe. Then one day when I was over at his place, he was holding his boa constrictor when the doorbell rang. Without thinking, he simply handed it to me and went to answer the door. It was the first time I had even touched a snake, yet I found myself fascinated and unafraid! In fact, I was soon eager to hold any of the snakes that were gentle and not at all inclined to bite!

In barely a year’s time, I had gone from being truly terrified of these beautiful creatures to being fascinated and unafraid of them – and I couldn’t even tell you how or when it happened, except to say that it happened incrementally. The more I learned about them, the less I came to fear them.

It’s been well over twenty-five years now since I’ve held a snake. I daresay I would have to go through another period of getting familiar with them to feel brave enough to touch one or hold one again. But remembering that transition from absolute terror to comfort with them makes me wonder – what do I fear now and what will it take to overcome that fear?

The Countdown: 30 days till the journey is “done” – Day 336 (Sunday – Nov 4)

I began this journey December 4th, almost a year ago, expecting to regularly and frequently be going through the paper piles and doing lots of other things that took more courage than I felt I had. With only 30 days remaining in this year of breaking through my fears, it could be deflating to look around my room and notice the many places those paper piles have not only not shrunk, but even grown. Then again, if I take a look inside, I am in awe of the ways I have changed and been changed.

My hope for these 30 days until December 4th is that I might use this time to consider what has happened – hopefully with frequent, perhaps shorter posts (it could happen!), and I’ll try not to worry about adding pictures when I don’t have the time.

I spent the past three days with a group of amazing and wonderful people, mostly transgendered or genderqueer in some way. Most of them active and involved, even being the leaders in their various faith communities. Being around them never fails to inspire me to continue the inner work I am doing. I’d like to share some of what I wrote in my journal this morning, beginning with a verse from Psalm 90: “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.” (NKJV)

In the past day or so, I’ve been thinking about new beginnings and how this day that begins the 30-day countdown of my ‘blog journey’ feels like a new beginning to me. Interesting, how it doesn’t feel like a journey to a new beginning, for the new journey has already begun.

This verse reminds me that God has been with me throughout this year of challenges and changes. The conference felt like a time of introspection and renewal. My trans friends and colleagues rekindle my desire to do ministry even as a I also appreciate that the “be still” process needs to continue. The author of a devotion I read talks about lying in a tree house as a kid, looking up at the sky, and not needing words to talk to God. She speaks of her experience as one of being in a “sacred space.”

I thought of the “sacred spaces” created through the differing faith expressions shared at the conference. There were people from Pagan, Jewish and Christian traditions, among others. Diverse experiences of the Divine were made available to all.

I don’t know that I have ever had the experience of being truly unwelcome in a particular faith group or 12-Step meeting, although my ACA/Al-Anon mentality can sometimes leave me thinking I might be unwelcome. Most, if not all of my trans friends have been rejected from these places that usually claim to “welcome” all who feel drawn to be there. Being around them enables me to show my support for their journey and deepens my own as I consider the courage they have needed just to be who they are.

This day does feel like a “new beginning” for me. The ten(!) hours of sleep I got helped, I’m sure. Yet it’s more than that. It’s even more than being thirty days away from the end of this 366-day journey.

It’s about having learned that I can “be still” and let my insides transform so that my “outsides” can begin manifesting those changes. It’s about learning that letting go in countless small ways is teaching me how to let go in bigger ways and how to let go with even greater ease.

It’s about discovering that even trusting God happens incrementally; that it’s not a simple decision I make, after which I can heave a sigh of relief, check it off my to-do list, and call it “done.”

It’s about learning to dream again and discovering that it’s the dreaming itself that’s important. I don’t have to know if or how any of these dreams may manifest, let alone when; it’s simply important that I do the dreaming and, through giving myself that permission, experience the growing belief that I am loved by God and I am just as worthy of experiencing these dreams as anyone else – as are you.

It’s about learning to trust, one day at a time, in God’s provision for me, in God’s love for me. And as I trust, I find I do have the courage to take those next steps of my journey through life.

Note: Your comments, experiences and reflections are welcome and appreciated. This is a place where “cross talk” can be a good thing! 😉

And for anyone who might notice: Admittedly, the math of my day numbers in previous posts doesn’t quite add up from the day I began this blog journey, but I needed to keep it simple. I adjusted the day count around the first of the year, adding 20 rather than 27 to whatever day of the year my calendar said, in order to make it easier to track. Yet this is, in fact, day 336, not day 345. 🙂

Day 149 (Wed/May 8): An unexpected journey, unexpected blessings

I find myself floundering, wondering how to regain the semblance of balance I had only a couple of weeks ago… At least it felt like balance compared to the last few weeks.

Last week was a quiet week, especially in comparison to the preceding weeks, which were all about frantically getting ready for a summit (that, I’m told, turned out to be a great success). I would get home, fix dinner, plan my next day’s lunch, then “recover” for an hour or so before heading for bed. I worked six, sometimes seven days a week. It seemed like there was no time for anything but work. Last week felt like the calm after a storm – at least until I committed to a whirlwind trip out of town for the weekend.

A dear friend of mine was being ordained and installed at his new parish. Not only that, he was being installed at a church where one of my best friends attends. It made for a joyful opportunity to be there for him and to visit with a friend I haven’t seen in a few years. The challenge was the distance – about 8 hours each way, but my long-time friend was thrilled at the prospect of my coming there and more than happy to offer a place to stay. Other things opened the way to my being able to make the trip, both time-wise and expense-wise, from having the money and opportunity for some car repairs to the willingness of both my employers for me to take the day off on Friday. I was grateful.

Yet amidst my eagerness to be there were the stirrings of other intense feelings. I began my own journey through seminary with the expectation that I would become a pastor. That changed my last year there – for good reasons and in ways that I celebrate as well. But the change in my expectations still required adjustment and the emotional pot of those changes gets stirred up when I witness my classmates being ordained.

Thus the weekend became a jumble of emotions: joy and celebration, as well as grief and an inescapable feeling of inadequacy and uncertainty each time well-meaning colleagues asked me what I’m doing these days. “Looking for work” (when I’m not actively doing so) or “doing temp work” (even though it is blessing me) are not the answers I cared to give. So I floundered with what to say and each person heard something a little different, depending on how well I knew them. To strangers who asked where I was “serving,” I usually replied simply, “I’m not a pastor.” Each repetition reminded me that I’m also not doing the work I long to do. Each answer left me wondering how and when I will begin to do the work that calls me, the work that inspires and excites me…

Saturday evening, I headed to my room early, exhausted from the day’s events. I wrote in my journal. I let the pain and grief rise to the surface and wept quietly, when what I wanted to do was to sob loudly. I wondered how I would make it through Sunday morning and hoped my face would not reflect the grief that I knew would still be there.

I always feel better after a night’s sleep, no matter how rough the evening before. I process things physically and something about simply resting and “forgetting” about whatever has been on my mind, as only happens in sleep, allows me to wake up refreshed. It doesn’t mean the grief was gone, but the intensity of the emotions, the pain especially, was significantly less. (I hoped no one would notice the telltale bags and dark circles under my eyes.)

I’m so glad I was able to muster a bit of cheerfulness at hearing my friend preach his first sermon as an ordained pastor. What a joy it was to be able to be there. After his sermon, I turned to my other friend and simply said, “Wow!” She obviously had the same response.

Despite my mixed feelings from the day before, something happened in the hours that followed that morning. I left for home feeling inspired and changed in ways I’m still sorting out. But I’ll have to save an exploration of that for a later post. It is time for me to head for bed and get some rest. As I was getting ready this morning and beginning to feel rushed, I asked myself if I was truly attending to what my body and spirit needed at the beginning of the day. From that moment on, I began to move at a pace that was peaceful, as well as productive. Tonight, I’m going to do the same.

Thanks for still being here. 🙂

(For whatever reason, the computer I’m using is not happy with my attempts to add photos. Maybe I’ll try again in the morning…)

Day 119 (Sun/Apr 8): Ups and downs, and wondering where the Easter eggs are hidden

I noticed the tension (and pain) in the tops of my shoulders yesterday, anxiety that sprang up when a phone call answered yielded nothing but silence, even though I was at work and such “non-calls” have occurred almost regularly in recent weeks. The neurotic part of me shifted from wondering if it was someone trying to scope out when people are in the office to wondering if it was a creditor trying to find me to serve some papers – even though that sort of thing wouldn’t happen until “normal” channels were already exhausted. It’s the kind of paranoia that tempts me to stop automatically identifying myself when I answer the phone at work, and I didn’t like feeling that way.

Maybe if I keep talking about it here, it’ll help me sort things out. Maybe you’ll have bits of wisdom to offer when you read this.

It dawned on me yesterday, that it’s okay if I make an occasional mistake. I caught myself worrying about whether a particular task had been done “correctly” (i.e., perfectly, all the pieces, no mistakes). Then I saw the ridiculousness of worrying about it, since anything that might have been missed could easily be corrected. I’m not sure I’ve realized just how often I do this – worry that I haven’t done a “perfect” job. I think it’s time to start letting go and recognize that I don’t have to be perfect or do things perfectly to be good at my job.

Odd that I never noticed just how much of a “thing” this has been for me. Because it wasn’t to the level of “obsessive” or “compulsive,” I didn’t realize there was this underlying anxiety around doing everything right. (How appropriate that The Sorcerer’s Apprentice suddenly came on the radio as I was experiencing these feelings! It’s how I feel when I’m busily trying to catch up on work and wondering if I’m doing it well.)

The past several days have been a strange mix of the space and freedom to be myself in the house, with my aunt and uncle gone, and anxiety as I face my financial challenges and have no one to divert my attention when I come home from work. Their absence is a mixed blessing.

This morning, I awoke later than usual, grateful for the ease of my Sunday schedule. I was just about finished with my journal reflection, when I realized I had time to make the 9:30 service, rather than the 10:45. (Yay for Easter Sundays, with extra services!) It was a delightful mix of “traditional” and “contemporary” music, with the bell choir opening (love it!) and the traditional (but robeless!) choir singing the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ (awesome!) during the first part of the service. The remainder had the contemporary group that I enjoy so much. It was nice to have both a wonderful and earlier beginning to my Sunday – especially because it’s “catch-up” day for me with regard to household tasks. (I’ve been pretty lazy about some things with nobody else around.)

This time alone also leaves me a lot of “think time.” As a result, I’m puzzling over something. I’ve worked 40 hours a week most of my adult life until six and a half years ago when I came to grad school. Now, for this past week and this coming week, I’m working 46 hours each week, Monday thru Saturday, and I have felt tired much of the time, with little energy for anything beyond work. The two weeks after this, I may work even longer hours, though I haven’t quite figured out how (or if) that will work. My question is, why is this so exhausting?

I spent my first four years in grad school preparing for a job that requires 50, 60 or even more hours per week and I was looking forward to it. Then I switched tracks and prepared for a vocation without a clear structure to it. I presumed I might have a “regular” job and pursue my vocational interests during evenings and weekends. When I talked about those interests with my sponsor the other day, she remarked how “alive” I was when I was talking about them. They are my passion! Which makes me wonder…

Will I have more energy to do the things I’m passionate about, regardless of my schedule? Is the exhaustion I feel now really all (or at least mostly) about the ongoing financial stress with no clear solution yet within sight? Am I deluding myself in believing I will have more energy when I am doing more of what excites and, well, energizes me? Or will even that be exhausting?

As I listen to the sounds and laughter of the Easter egg-hunt party next door, I wonder, where are my Easter eggs and what colors will they be?

Big and Small Steps:

  • Checked out some books at the library to help me figure out some of my financial options.
  • Let my choice of service times this morning be determined by how my morning went.
  • Caught up on lots of laundry (including my sheets and the new things I got the other day).

Noticings:

  • How readily body memories can be triggered around certain experiences, even if the mind is okay with things.
  • What a blessing gentle music can be when I’ve been feeling anxious.
  • How scattered my thoughts can be when I’m distressed and not having time, in that moment, to address my concerns.
  • What a delight energetic music can be when my energy is sagging! (Like Superman or Star Wars themes. :-))
  • How much food ends up in my mouth when I’m stressed…

Day 112 (Sun/Apr 1): The “end” of the journey within a journey (April Fool’s?!)

Frond Sunday perhaps?

Happy Palm Sunday, to those of you who attend to such things!

This morning was a mix of emotions. My son was born on a Palm Sunday, so once in a great while, his birthday lands on the day, as it also occasionally lands on Easter. As I watched the young man who plays congas at my church, standing ready to kneel at the altar to receive communion, he suddenly reminded me so much of my son I was soon in tears that were difficult to keep under control. I miss my son and the confluence of circumstances intensified that feeling in that moment. We haven’t seen each other for close to three years now since neither of us has had the financial resources to travel the distance between us.

 I’m thinking a lot about things like that – being able to see my son, for instance – now that my income will receive a boost for the next few weeks. It isn’t as if I imagine this to be a ‘permanent’ change in my level of income, but my recent conversation with my sponsor helped expand my perception of what a possible income mightbe for me down the road and that, in turn, broadens my dreams – which is a nice thing.

Ten or so days ago

Yesterday was a full and nourishing day that left no time for reflecting here. I enjoyed an InterPlay “retreat” day, my Al Anon meeting, dinner with family, then a movie (on DVD – My Big Fat Greek Wedding) with my aunt and uncle after everyone else had left. It felt good to laugh and to enjoy a movie with them. They have so rarely gone to movies that it’s easy to find things they haven’t seen. (Less easy to find things I know they would enjoy.) It was fun to witness my uncle getting so tickled at so many points in the movie. I had forgotten how funny that movie is.

Yesterday...Ruh roh...wrong direction

I appreciated having this “journey within the journey” and it leaves me wondering what’s next on the horizon as I continue my journey of breaking through fear. So much seemed to change in the past eighteen days that I’m still taking it in. Today, when I started to feel guilty for neglecting the growing box of papers, I realized I can continue indefinitely to release thoughts of self-judgment when they arise. It will likely slip my mind now and then, but having this intentional 18-day period of attending to that helped me shift my thinking about myself significantly – startlingly, in fact.

Tomorrow begins a new day at a new job, so I will keep this short. I’m feeling a bit nervous, so I’ll make a point of reading something encouraging and relaxing before bed. I recently started reading Arianna Huffington’s On Becoming Fearless…in Love, Work, and Life. I have read two of the chapters so far (the ones on being fearless around money and relationships) and now I’m reading the chapter on being fearless at work. It is nourishing that part of me that is becoming more courageous. I plan to order my own copy. (Libraries tend to frown on people keeping and marking in their books.) I like Arianna’s philosophy and the premise of the book. I definitely recommend it!

I shall return to posting several times a week, rather than daily. (Yesterday’s ‘missing’ post was simply a logistical issue.) Perhaps another “journey within the journey” will present itself. Perhaps I will simply continue on this path of discovery as I learn how to balance work and all the other things in life. It’s been a long time since I worked full-time. It’s going to be an interesting five to six weeks or so!

So much yet to happen

Noticings:

  • The time and my need to wrap this up and post it so I can prepare for bed.
  • How often I tend to employ caveats and qualifiers in my writing – which is something I’d like to change. (Which is, of course, another caveat/qualifier! Sigh…)
  • How peaceful my body has felt since yesterday’s InterPlay time (despite this morning’s tears and hints of depression that are normal to all these sudden changes).
  • How nervousness is trying to sneak in as time flies and all the things I want to do to get ready in the morning are coming to mind.

Day 109 (Thu/Mar 29): Three days – Reflections, clarity, trust, a journey within the journey

Sometimes it's time to sit, watch and listen

I’m so grateful for the space to “sleep on it,” with regard to how I feel and what I might be willing to accept or not accept with regard to the possible temp position that came up. It is now clear to me that I am not willing to betray the trust my employers have placed in me and run after a paycheck. As much as I may need the financial support, I have to think about where my trust lies. Certainly, it does not lie in my bank account.

This realization started unfolding last night and became clear this morning as I read a few verses in my Bible and wrote two surprisingly short reflections in my journal. Such phrases as “blot out my transgressions” and “you desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom” from Psalm 51 jumped out at me. My present challenges with financial debt and my desire to discern God’s will for me in what I am and am not willing to do to expand my income came to mind.

I let things flow this morning, writing a short reflection, then a prayer in response to the verses that caught my attention. Then I opened up last year’s journal. The verse was one of my favorites: “Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily…” (Is. 58:8 NKJV) I have been in need of so much physical and emotional healing in recent years that these words never fail to lift my spirits and remind me that my road to healing is also a road of recovery.

This morning, I pulled out my NKJV Bible and read the rest of the verse. O-M-G! “And your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.” Heard by me as, “God will prepare the way for you and keep you safe; God will provide for you.”

Okay, so maybe you don’t happen to be into the Bible/God thing, but God is my Higher Power and somewhere along the line, my life became all about my relationship with God. Not in the sense of not being about relationships with other people, but definitely in the sense of wanting to develop and deepen the trust and the relationship I have with Hir. (Btw, for me, God is beyond gender and it’s our language that limits how we talk about Hir.)

So this morning, I find myself with a lot of serenity, several things on my calendar, and a number of “crackpot” theories. On my calendar for today: running some errands and meeting with my sponsor. On my calendar for Friday: morning appointment with my cousins to see if we might work well together (i.e., do I know Quickbooks well enough that I might work for them part-time), followed by getting together with a dear friend who lives an hour or so away. On my calendar for Saturday: a day-long InterPlay retreat, followed by my Al Anon meeting, followed by dinner with family. On my calendar for Sunday: church followed, I hope, by some actual R&R for the afternoon. (It could happen. Really it could!) On my calendar for next week: God only knows and hasn’t yet sent me the memo!

I am holding all of these plans loosely, knowing a few might change. But some will not. Some things require my commitment and I do not give them up lightly. That includes my part-time job. As this has become clear to me, an interesting thing happened. [So much for the short post. Sigh…]

Release and let go

I mentioned having “crackpot” theories. Well, there’s really only one that comes to mind at the moment: release is a powerful magnet to our good. Catherine Ponder advocates this and I am fast becoming a believer. In the few, short days since I began letting go again (and again and again) when things threatened to derail me from my serenity, I have been blessed with new possibilities.

A couple of days ago I was pretty stressed about my debt situation. Then, in these past 24 hours, as I have gained clarity about how to respond with integrity to possible job opportunities, it has become equally clear to me how to respond with integrity to my financial situation. I had been distressed, I realize now, because I had been letting my credit card company force me to an unwanted choice, when the truth is, I can continue to do what I can, when I can, and they can choose how to respond to my efforts. I do not need to make any hard and fast choices in this moment. I can continue as I had intended and allow things to unfold.

Isn’t that kind of the way life goes most of the time anyway? 😉

Things *do* come together when I let go and let God do the putting together

Big and Small Steps:

  • Made payments this morning on my three credit cards. (Yay for Thursday paychecks from the temp agency!)
  • Decided not to try to “get” my creditors to do anything. I’ll just keep doing my best and it will either work or it won’t.
  • Let go my fears about the possible 5-week position and, along with it, my fears about my finances.

Noticings:

  • How good it feels to gain clarity around a particular situation.
  • How much I miss my son. (We missed each other on the phone the other night.)
  • How much I’m learning about myself in this 18-day “journey within a journey.”
  • How happy I am to be at the office this morning, having time to write this! (And how nice it is to be able to ignore the phone until I’m “at work.”)

Discovery:

  • We now have irrefutable proof that my (92 1/2-year-old) uncle is hard-headed. When he took a tumble backwards on Sunday and hit his head on the closet door, his skull “fractured” the door rather than the other way around! (What a fun story this will make at family gatherings!) 😉

Day 93 – Tue, Mar. 13th (93/273): Yesterday’s journey – letting go

Tears sprang up quickly when I opened my journal to the page with these words on it: Now a word came stealing to me, my ear received the whisper of it. (Job 4:12 NRSV). I don’t know that I can articulate exactly what it was about this verse that moved me… Perhaps it’s the reminder that God is whispering to me and I am learning to hear what is being said more clearly, more often.

 I’m still on the precipice of fear, feeling as if things are about to change in a big way. Wanting it. Fearing it. Leaning towards it. Backing away. Stumbling in my uncertainty, like a little child crying because she needs something, but not yet knowing what that is or how to ask for it.

I wore my Bluetooth, with the cell phone ringer turned up, on the way home from the office yesterday, hoping for a call to return to the temp job, the call to lead me to more income for this  month. I shed some tears as the phone remained silent, feeling powerless, my hope for additional income this month seeming to fade away. My hopes of making progress in some small way around finances seemed to shrink with every silent mile toward home. Not actually toward “home,” but rather toward the place I am staying for now.

I felt a bit resistant last night, but still determined to spend a few minutes sorting papers. The lid from the 10-ream paper box, brought home from work, has made it more convenient to migrate my (unsorted) papers between my “desk” and my bed each morning and evening. It has also made it easier to ignore them.

Ten minutes. That’s been my intention for days now – to spend only/at least ten minutes a day attending to my growing pile of papers. I had pulled out my green, plastic file box, put it on the bed and found some information I needed earlier in the evening. Now it waited there, open and ready to receive.

There are so many empty hanging files in it, there’s little space for adding papers. There’s little order or space to organize, but I decided to do something anyway. I turned on another DVD episode of Murder, She Wrote on my computer and began picking through the top of the pile.

Church bulletins landed in one folder. Notes from and related to the Islam class in another. A (paid) bill joined the folder with my other receipts.

I didn’t push it. I didn’t deal with more than the simple, obvious categories. It’s the dozens of little slips of paper, the notes, the tidbits of information or of things I want to remember that create clutter within the pile. I skipped past those – for now.

 I ended up working on the task for twenty or thirty minutes, nibbling away slowly as I paid just enough attention to the show to be able to follow it. I didn’t notice how long I worked. I just noticed that I was getting a start and appreciated that I was making an effort despite my lack of enthusiasm. I enjoy doing this much more when there’s space to file and a clearer order to the file. But I’m not in my own space. I’m staying – graciously blessed – with family, and for this I am grateful. Very grateful.

There’s much to do, but I can do what I can with what I have. Most papers I kept. A few I threw away. The box is a tiny bit less full than it was.

I’m still on that precipice of fear. But reading my reflection from January last year, I’m reminded that even the tiny steps toward sorting my papers, like those few minutes last night, teach me a practice of letting go that can help me learn to let go in bigger ways, more significant ways.

I read something in the February Forum (Al Anon’s publication) last night that stayed with me. It was a short quote about letting God have the steering wheel and learning to enjoy the ride. I’d like to do the same, and enjoy the ride a little more often.

Noticings:

  • How clear it was that the site I checked (see below) was not where I needed to spend my energy at this moment.
  • How often I pray for my uncle, like when I heard him coughing early this morning, trying to clear the congestion from his lungs.

Action step(s):

  • Sorted papers for twenty or more minutes, keeping it light and easy.
  • Took a quick peek at the job listings on a local organizations website. (Nothing looked like a good fit or felt right.)
  • Put the different types of hot cereals in stacking containers to make it easier to vary what I have in the mornings. (The trouble for me and many of us is not so much what we eat as that we eat too much of the same things with little variation. I am particularly guilty of this and continue to look for ways to mix things up a bit.)
  • Did the core exercise this morning that I was doing regularly for weeks, though have done it seldom these last ten or so days as I began doing short stair workouts (which are also helpful, if less targeted, for core strengthening). This morning I did both.

Day 91 – Sun (PM), Mar. 11th (91/275): Holding onto hope

It’s interesting to notice how quickly moods shift and elation can become deflation. It’s not so much that I was specifically “elated” earlier, but one phone call from a creditor was all it took to open the door to feeling depressed again.

I’ve been observing these transitions, noticing more specifically the train of thoughts. Much like my experience a week or two ago, there seems to be a pattern to it that is rather similar. I’d like to examine it here and see what comes up. Perhaps you’ll have a perspective to share to help me see this in a different light.

Need I say more?

For the moment – and I’m grateful for my confidence that this is for the moment and not for the long-haul – I feel depressed. Before the phone call even ended, I was feeling defeated, shot down in my buoying hopefulness around expanding work possibilities (i.e., expanding income). The representative called to inform me of the status of my card – as if I didn’t know this already. Really, they are calling to inform me of their status in relation to my debt: how much longer they can work with me, how close they are to “charging off” the debt (i.e., sending it to a collection agency), and don’t I want to speak to their in-house credit counselors? (I would gladly speak to their in-house counselors if they would be willing to accept the tiny payments I can manage now until those payments grow larger.)

Today’s call revealed that the debt is still big and growing (not news) and that the charge-off date for one card is the end of this month and the charge off date for the other card is the end of next month. They don’t need a lot of money; about $238 per month would pay off both these cards within their allotted time (at zero percent interest). It’s just that I have not yet had that much extra money per month and, quite frankly, would rather have it help me get into my own place that turn it over to them. Actually, I’d rather be able to do both. I truly would like to catch up on my credit cards. It’s just that, for the moment, mundane things like food and gas and other randomly necessary expenses are a higher priority for me.

So, back to the present challenge: the depression that threatens to swamp me if I hold these feelings in…

My colorful pens, my trusty journal

What I noticed, as I got off the phone feeling increasingly depressed, is that I am feeling angry. I’m angry at them for not being willing to let me do what I can until I can do more, regardless of how long it takes. I’m angry at them for calling and shooting down my excitement over being able to make at least one, if not more, “extra” payments this month. Mostly though, I’m angry at myself for feeling powerless to change this as quickly as both of us want.

I feel like I’m lying when I tell them I have no other resources from which to draw. I have one tiny IRA. If I cashed it out, I could partially catch up one payment. I’m not willing to do that. (Duh!) I might have an income tax refund coming. I’ll know more in a week or so. But I’m not willing to hand that over either. However big or small it is, I have here-and-now needs that take precedence over past due credit card bills.

I feel angry at myself that I’m still, obviously, paralyzed enough by my fears to not have more actively done something to generate more income. It would be one thing if I was submitting applications right and left. At least I could say that I’m trying. But doing all this inner work, no matter how important, still leaves me feeling like a liar and a failure when I tell my credit card company I’m trying to expand my income. The truth is I dowant to expand my income; I even want to expand my work hours. I just feel inept and overwhelmed, still, about how to go about it more effectively.

Gathering words of encouragement

It’s all well and good to talk about small steps and the progress I’m making. I doappreciate that. Truly. It’s quite another thing to have a creditor breathing down my neck and not be able to say, “Hey, I’m going to be able to catch up my payment in x weeks (or months). Can you hang in there just a little bit longer??”

Just for tonight, or perhaps this moment, I’m feeling angry, frustrated and powerless. I feel deflated and defeated. This is why my morning reflection journaling time is so important to me, as is reading books like Al Anon’s Courage to Change and Catherine Ponder’s Open Your Mind to Receive.  It’s much like pouring clear water into a class of long-dried mud. It takes time – and lots of water – to loosen the old patterns of thinking and clear the way for the new. It’s amazing just how many repetitions of certain words and concepts it takes for the encouragement to build and build until the depression or defeat doesn’t stand a chance of survival. Fortunately, I have a lot of reps of that variety ‘under my belt,’ so I know I will feel better when I start my day tomorrow.

Two wonderful verses come to mind right now. I think I’ll hold onto them this evening and use them for my reflection in the morning.

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. (Ps 30:5 NKJV)

Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, For in You do I trust; Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You.(Ps 143:8 NKJV)

A favorite book, my journal, a reminder

Previous Older Entries

© 2013 LuciasJourney.com